Some animals are more equal than others


Some caucus members and union delegates may get more than one vote

Tracy Watkins discusses the role of the unions in selecting Labour’s next leader.

[N]ew rules giving Labour’s grassroots a 40 per cent say, and union delegates a 20 per cent say, would not be triggered. But in a move likely to ruffle caucus feathers, Ms Coatsworth appeared to stop any prospect of a deal in its tracks, saying the leadership should be decided under Labour’s new rules – “rather than behind closed doors in the caucus room”.

That puts the leadership in limbo for the next three weeks while up to 50,000 voting papers are sent out and candidates make their pitch at a series of meetings across New Zealand.

The candidates will be expected to abide by a code of conduct – which includes no personal attacks and no big-spending campaigns – before a new leader is announced on September 15.

The new rules were an attempt by the party’s grassroots to rein in caucus after a widening rift over policy and direction. But they could drive an even deeper wedge if the party and caucus back opposing candidates and cancel each other out, because the caucus vote counts for only 40 per cent of the total.

That makes Labour’s union affiliates, whose votes count for 20 per cent, the potential king makers and could deliver the caucus a leader that a majority of MPs don’t support.

What is interesting is it appears that some members could potentially have three votes and others two, while the grassroots members get just one vote. 

You see if you are a caucus member you get a vote…with 40% say this is quite powerful, but if the caucus member is also still heavily involved with an affliated union, like Darien Fenton of the Service & Food Workers Union and Andrew Little from the EPMU, or any MP still a member of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), Service & Food Workers Union (SFWU), Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ), New Zealand Dairy Workers Union (NZDWU), New Zealand Meat & Related Trades Workers Union (NZMWU), then they may well be able to convince their parent union to appoint them as a delegate for the union and score a second vote. Then on top of that they can get a vote as an ordinary member.

Union delegates appear also to be able to multiple vote, once as a union delegate and once as a member.

Tim Barnett confirms it also:

General Secretary Tim Barnett said the council had an agreement to that effect with the union. He described it as exciting that they would be getting a say.

The rest of the college is made up of a 40 percent weighting to the caucus and 40 percent to members.

In what Barnett called a complex but directed process, a calculation will be made to represent individual votes within each allocation, so if the caucus is evenly split, that would be reflected in their 40 percent weighting as 20 percent of the college vote for each candidate.

But it means if a union member is also a party member they can vote twice, but Barnett said the impact would be a tiny decimal point.

I think Barnett might be stretching the truth there somewhat, perhaps a math genius might like to do some calculations for me. Caucus and the unions actually seem to have a much more powerful vote than rank and file members.

The unions seem pretty pleased though, let’s just see what the EPMU believes via Neale Jones:

So while talks up the “democratic” nature of grassroots members being able to vote for a leader it would appear than some Labour animals are more equal than others in voting rights.

And Neale Jones from teh EPMU is quite pleased about it too.


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  • cows4me

    ” no big spending campaigns” , we talking socialists here, fishes arseholes spring to mind.

  • Jimmie

    I saw on a TV1 news item last night an interview with some woman from the unions.

    She had a slip of the tongue where she was going to say that they would be looking to vote for someone who would push the union viewpoint then corrected herself to say the party viewpoint – was a very telling mistake.

    Only saw it out of the corner of my eye so I didn’t see who it was.